Monday, August 29, 2011

Colorado Springs

Our five days in Colorado Springs have flown! A highlight of our stay was a visit to the Unites States Air Force Academy. What an impressive place! The centerpiece of the campus is the Cadet Chapel, which is the most popular man-made attraction in Colorado. You can't miss it.

The chapel was designed to house several worship areas under its pinnacled roof. The Protestant Chapel, on the main floor, is the largest. The 46-foot polished aluminum cross suspended above the altar is quite elegant.

Stained glass windows form colorful ribbons of light across the ceiling.

One pew near the front is "reserved" for a very special group of service men and women. A solitary candle burns in the center of the pew as a constant reminder... keep POWs and MIAs in our hearts, minds and prayers.

These bibles were neatly stacked in a rack on the back wall of the chapel. We had never before seen camouflaged bibles.

The Catholic Chapel is located on the lower floor. A glass mosaic of shades of blue, turquoise, rose and gray provides a calm and peaceful backdrop to the altar.

The Jewish Chapel is also on the lower level. This circular room was designed to suggest a tent-like structure.

The Buddist Chapel is the newest and smallest worship area. This quiet space welcomes visitors to spend some peaceful time in meditation.

Outside the Chapel, visitors can watch cadets moving from class to class across the Terrazzo. Freshman cadets are required to "run the strips" of granite between the blocks as they move from building to building. The Chapel Wall is the only spot where family and friends can see their cadets during basic training. This view provides an interesting perspective on cadet life.

On Saturday, we decided to take a drive up the mountains to Cripple Creek. We fueled up with a late breakfast at the Hungry Bear in Woodland Park. We were pleasantly surprised to see fellow travelers Ed and Marilyn sitting at the next table. What a small world! We hadn't seen these two since our visit to the Rio Grande Valley nearly two years ago. It was great to catch up with them.

Cripple Creek, Colorado is an "interesting" place. Visitors are welcomed with the booming whistle of this historic narrow gauge railroad that runs to neighboring Victor.

On the surface, Cripple Creek looks like a quaint, old gold mining town in the mountains.

But inside nearly every door of these historic buildings are rows and rows of slot machines! In 1991, Colorado voters allowed Cripple Creek to establish legalized gambling. As a result, this ghost town has been transformed into a gambling destination. We're not really gamblers, but we enjoyed our stroll around town on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. And, the scenic drive up and back couldn't be beat!

Yesterday, we met my brother and his family for lunch in Monument, just north of Colorado Springs. It was great to get together. Every time we do we're amazed at how these two boys just keep growing!

Our home here in Colorado Springs has been the Garden of the Gods Campground, which is just down the mountain from Manitou Springs. It has served as a great home base for our brief time here in "The Springs".

Tomorrow, we're headed for our native Kansas and the coolest campground ever!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


"Where's your favorite place?" is the question we are asked most frequently. Our answer has always been vague. ("It's tough to say.") Now, we know. Gunnison, Colorado, is our favorite! Over the last six weeks we have fallen in love with the place. And, what's not to love? Though it's surrounded by beautiful mountains, Gunnison is flat, making it an extremely bike-friendly town. At an elevation of 7,700 feet the Summer air is cool and clear. With a population between 5,000 and 11,000 (depending on who's counting and what time of year it is), it has a great small town feeling. Main Street offers up just about everything you need.

Gunnison boasts some mighty fine eating establishments, and we've sampled just about every one. The Gunnisack is a great place to grab a burger and a beer and meet up with friends Fred and Jo Wishnie who were camped between here and Crested Butte.

We've followed the travels of Fred, Jo and Boo Boo for years. It was a real treat to finally get to meet these good folks live and in person.

We introduced Fred and Jo to friends Darren and Joyce over dinner at The Twisted Fork, one of Gunnison's fine dining establishments. Darren and Joyce detoured their travel plans to meet up with us here. It was so great to spend time with these friends in our new favorite town. We wish them all safe travels and look forward to seeing them down the road.

One of the things that makes Gunnison great, in our humble opinion, is it's a college town. Western State College brings about 2500 students and staff to town each fall. As they started arriving this week, we watched Gunnison greet them with a warm welcome.

There's always something going on in Gunnison. Shortly after our arrival, Gunnison celebrated "Cattlemen's Days", which included a classic small town parade.

This parade float celebrated the many outdoor activities you can enjoy in and around Gunnison, including golf, zip lining, mountain biking and (our recently acquired sport) disc golf. This is one more thing we love about Gunnison!

Cattlemen's Days also features a rodeo and junior livestock show. This parade float included the winning 4-H members and their animals. Any town that celebrates 4-H is our kind of place!

The Boy Scouts showed up at the parade in full force and distributed candy. Like every small town parade, there were also pretty girls on horses, politicians in classic cars and clowns in tiny ones. But, this post already has plenty of pictures. So, we'll move along.

Legion Park has been the site of a couple of art fairs during our stay. This expansive green space is the perfect spot to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon. While wandering amongst the vendors, several woodcarvings caught our eye.

This was one of the amazing works of art on permanent display. Each year, Gunnison hosts "Carvin' Up Colorado", a chainsaw carving competition that attracts artists from several states to transform tree stumps into works of art. The creations from each competition become the property of the city and are placed on permanent display around town.

This year's competition was held last weekend, so we made a trip back to Legion Park to watch this artistry in action. The tree stumps are collected by the city throughout the year from trees felled for safety reasons. The sculptures are created solely using chainsaws. Paint, burns and stain add character and dimension. The results are gorgeous!

Works of art of a different nature were on display across the street from the chainsaw competition. The Gunnison Car Club sponsored its 24th annual Gunnison Car Show in beautiful Jorgensen Park. We took advantage of a comfortable and sunny Saturday afternoon and spent some time wandering around the 300 or so classic cars. This 1950 Willys Jeepster convertible is a distant relative of our Rocky. Sixty-some years later we can see a resemblance!

This '70s era VW convertible reminded us of one of our favorite possessions we parted with before we left California.

Cars just don't have "faces" like this anymore!

Long before crash-tested car seats, this is how kids stayed safe in the car. Paul has fond memories of standing in the back of the family sedan and holding on to this safety strap across the back of the front seat.

How's this for another flashback? This relic was part of a display for a classic Mustang. You know you're old if you know what this is! (And, yes. We do!)

Our new favorite town enjoyed international attention yesterday as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge came to town. This first-year race brought 135 elite professional cyclists from around the world to Colorado for seven consecutive days of racing around the Rockies. For Stage One, Gunnison had a front-row seat along the route from Salida to Crested Butte. We weren't sure what to expect, but we quickly discovered that when the top finishers from the Tour de' France come to town with TV viewers from 161 countries, Gunnison knows how to throw a party.

We joined the festive crowds lining Main Street and waited patiently at the turn. Following a flurry of support vehicles, we got a great view of the day's two leaders fly through the turn toward Crested Butte. Then, we waited about five minutes for the pentolon to arrive.

Whooooosh! This picture doesn't really capture the energy and excitement of seeing 133 professional cyclists fly by in a couple of seconds. It was awesome!

After our up close and personal race experience, we were hooked. We rushed home to watch the rest of Stage 1 on TV.

This morning, Gunnison was up bright and early to host the start of Stage 2. Main Street was lined with cheering crowds ready to give the riders a proper send off.

Stage 2 is known as The Queen Stage, the crown jewel of the seven stages. Lots of today's spectators donned most appropriate crowns for the occasion.

To a chorus of cheers, clapping, bells and whistles, the riders headed out of Gunnison for their day with the Queen. Today's route from here to Aspen covers 131.1 miles and covers two (count 'em, two) mountain passes for a total climb of 9,746 feet. That kind of riding will definitely take your breath away!

Our accommodations here in Gunnison have been quite comfortable. We spent our first month in this scenic and green site at the Gunnison KOA. If you click on the photo and take a closer look you'll see the end of a rainbow!

The KOA is adjacent to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Airport. There are just a few flights in and out of here every day, so the place was pretty quiet. But, one day we caught a view of the tail end of a plane doing touch-and-goes on the peaceful airstrip. Now, that's a unique tail! Neighbors Karen and Arvin hopped in their Jeep as we jumped in ours to get a closer look.

We arrived at the airport just in time to see the plane land once again. Click on the photo to identify this very special aircraft. We checked the White House website to see if the President or Vice President had Gunnison on their agenda, but they didn't. Perhaps someone was here on unofficial business.

The best thing about the Gunnison KOA is the people who run the place. Owner Dave goes out of his way to take care of his guests, especially the kids. Karen and Arvin's grandsons Sammy and Grady looked forward to Dave's "Friday Night Fights", which gave Sammy a chance to practice his newly acquired boxing skills. (Grady provided back up.) Dave was "knocked out" every time!

When he's not busy boxing, Sammy likes to work on his ropin' skills. One afternoon he brought his "dummy" over and showed us his stuff. This kid is good! We look forward to seeing him perform at the Cattlemen's Day Rodeo some day.

When Karen and Arvin hit the road a couple of weeks ago, we decided to check out a park across town. Palisades RV Park is a "senior" park that is owned and operated by the City of Gunnison. Our friends Darren and Joyce enjoyed their stay here and so did we. Sadly, tomorrow we'll be pulling up stakes and heading east over Monarch Pass to Colorado Springs. But, we will be back!

There you have it. We've covered six weeks in one post! We look forward to sharing more in our future visits to our new favorite town. This is one place that we will definitely make a regular stop on our travels.

In case you couldn't tell, we really like it here!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Crested Butte

Crested Butte is one of those places you can't see just once. In the last three weeks we made two road trips to this gorgeous area about 30 miles north of Gunnison. Our first trek was a two Jeep tour with (from left) locals Nic and Nicki, and friends Joyce and Darren.

Today we enjoyed a return trip with Paul's sister Susan and her husband Doug who are came to Colorado to cool off a bit. (It's been scorching hot at their house.)

Our route took us north through the town of Crested Butte and its picturesque neighbor to the north, Mt. Crested Butte.

Just beyond Mt. Crested Butte, Gothic Road turned to dirt, which made the Jeeps very happy.

The mission for both journeys was the same: to capture the beauty of Colorado wildflowers in the Rockies. I was in search of the "perfect wildflower shot". This one was close, but there was simply no convincing these yellow beauties to face the camera.

With backdrops like this, we just had to pose for a picture or two.

With some of my attempts at the perfect wildflower shot, it was tough to find the wildflowers!

Rocky and Rubi (Joyce and Darren's Jeep) enjoyed the ride as much as we did.

Here's another wildflower shot without flowers. But, in a couple of weeks, these late bloomers should be stunning. (Timing is everything!)

Nic and Nicki posed in a spot that was so picturesque I had to move in for a closer look...

...and this was the result. No wildflowers here, but I love the shot.

And, somehow I knew Paul would capture me in the act. That water was cold!

Gothic Road leads to the town of Gothic. (Where else?) This former mining town has found new life as the home of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, one of the world's largest and oldest independent field stations. Every summer, approximately 150 students and scientists come to this remote spot to conduct high-altitude ecosystem research.

These well-researched wildflowers made a nice photo, though still not the shot I had in mind.

About 12 miles out of Mt. Crested Butte, Gothic Road was closed by snow and slides. We parked the Jeeps and hiked a bit up the road to see what there was to see. Joyce and Darren paused to enjoy the sight of snow in summer!

Nicki and the boys trekked across the snow to see what was on the other side.

The road continues on to Emerald Lake. But, there was no way we were going to get the Jeeps over that snow field.

While the snow hikers were busy, Joyce and I enjoyed the views. Three weeks ago there was plenty of snow on the slopes.

Here's how the same spot looked today. The snow melt has really greened things up!

Less snow means more wildflowers. But, this shot turned out to be mostly dandelions!

My quest for the perfect shot continued. Mountains, fields, cabins and a winding stream make a lovely photo, but it's not really about wildflowers. I kept looking...

Adding a few horses makes for another nice photo. That "perfect" wildflower shot remained elusive.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! It was definitely time to stop and enjoy the flowers.

Those Jeepers sure look like they enjoyed the trek up Gothic Road. So did we. Thanks, guys!

Today's trip with Susan and Doug included a stop in "town" for the Crested Butte Art Fair. It was a perfect day to take in art from all over the region. We can't imagine a more picturesque setting!

Living in 400 square feet, we don't have the space for wonderful works of art. These days, we snap a few photographs to appreciate the pieces we really enjoy.

Crested Butte is a former coal mining town that is now called "the last great Colorado ski town." Several quaint old homes around town are now historic landmarks and serve as summer homes and bed and breakfasts.

Crested Butte is a year-round haven for outdoor enthusiasts. One of its claims to fame is that mountain biking got its start here. Today, Crested Butte is home to the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame.

Skiers, hikers and bikers need refreshment, and Crested Butte offers several spots for a tasty meal or a cool drink. Eldo's seemed like our kind of place.

After perusing what seems like a billion of my Crested Butte wildflower shots, I landed on my favorite. What do you think?